Can technology provide not only immortality but also transcendence?
How far can techno-scientific advances go, when faced with the problem of human finitude? According to transhumanism, quite far. Transhumanism claims mankind can indeed become immortal, our current human state being but a primitive phase in our race towards development. Transhumanists look toward a super-humanity living in a super-comfortable environment, making full use of a set of super-capacities yet to be discovered through (and thanks to) technology.
A conference organized recently in Barcelona by the Fundació Casa de la Misericordia (in collaboration with other organizations, including Aleteia), under the name “Artificial Intelligence and Transhumanism,” served to analyze these phenomena with the presence of various international experts on the matter.
Professor Bernard Ars, an expert surgeon and Honoris Causa PhD from the Carol Davila University in Bucharest, explained that the cornerstone of the transhumanist utopia “resides in the transformation of our conception of life and, above all, of the human condition: it tries to convince us of the abnormality of our present condition while rejecting any idea of transcendence.”
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To what extent does transhumanism imply a feasible anthropological breakdown? Where are transhumanist ethical and technological boundaries to be found? Professor Ars summarizes the transhumanist project in five main points:
- Transhumanism has no limits: Transhumanism understands itself as an ongoing struggle against death, even if this implies biophysical modifications on humans that might turn them into cyborgs, with technological tools and extensions incorporated into their own bodies.
- It relativizes the value of human life: Transhumanism considers the distinction between humans and other living beings just a matter of “gradual difference,” according to Professor Ars. This has implications for our understanding of the dignity of human life.
- It allows for an arbitrary choice about the morphology of one’s own body: The transhuman being would be free to change his body and to choose a variety of procreation options. One of the main questions this trend poses is concerns communication: To what extent can the relationship with our environment and others be properly maintained if the human body is deeply modified at one’s own will? Can we still find some common ground or a minimally shared language among ourselves and others?
- Transhumanism only looks forward: Tt cares only for the future, as it understands history in terms of perpetual evolution. Modern humanism keeps an eye on history as its immediate, evident reference, whereas in the transhumanist perspective, according to Ars, “the future of the human will no longer depend on its past.”
- It is another version of classic materialism: Dr. Ars explains the current materialist transhuman trend understands its own material evolution as a consequence of the development of the “technosciences, their instruments and their operative concepts.” Thus, transhumanism understands evolution as a technical improvement. Here, the risk for the over-technologization of human actions raises a red flag. If transhuman subjects are unable to make decisions for themselves, would they then “become inhumane”?
In the face of transhumanism, Dr. Ars points out to the fact that “the human body is a determined quantity of matter, organized in a specific, living way, in which a kind of intrinsic, immaterial purpose organizes and maintains this subject according to a project that transcends” its own material determinations. That is to say, that the human being is not only a biological machine. This implies human beings should not be and are not expected to act as biological automatons.
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A deeper awareness of the consequences of our actions, and of our inherent need for a relationship with the environment and with others (that is, our social human dimension), is instead the determinant trace of what can be thought of as human. “If human experience is mechanized,” asks Dr. Ars, “then where and what is transcendence?” If transhumanism wants to remain “human” it cannot understand transcendence exclusively in terms of biological survival (that is, organic immortality), since “humans cannot be humans but by going beyond themselves.”